I have just spent the past three hours watching and live tweeting the CNN GOP Town Hall meeting in Greenville, South Carolina where Ben Carson, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz spoke.
From where I sit, the big headline coming out of this town hall is that Marco Rubio is the only Republican who has any chance in hell of moving into the White House next January.
No offense to Ben Carson. But I suspect that a lot of people were in their kitchens making sandwiches or catching up on their e-mail.
Now there’s no doubt that Ted Cruz is extremely intelligent, but he doesn’t know how to talk to people. The best question that was asked the entire evening was asked by a gentleman who basically asked how can Cruz get his agenda passed through Congress when he can’t do it now and is so despised by his fellow Republicans. Cruz compared himself to Ronald Reagan. Nice try. Yes, the Republican establishment hated Reagan for challenging Gerald Ford in 1976. But Cruz doesn’t possess The Gipper’s sunny ways. Cruz didn’t help his cause by claiming he wouldn’t resort to attacking his opponents only to say that Marco Rubio supports amnesty for criminal illegal aliens, something which is patently false and a charge unworthy of his intelligence.
While Ted Cruz talked at people, Marco Rubio talked to them. Rubio was no doubt buoyed by SC Governor Nikki Haley’s endorsement earlier in the day. The tongue lashing from Chris Christie is nearly a distant memory. But endorsement or no endorsement, Rubio understands student debt in a way that most Senators never will. Up until three years ago, his student debt was in the six figures and was only retired after writing a book. Rubio understands that not everyone is going to get a book deal. But he does understand when people say, “I never met Sallie Mae, but I sure gave her a lot of money.”
When Rubio says he wants to grow the Republican Party as opposed to merely unifying it that’s a scary prospect for Democrats who are running the Geritol Gang of Hillary and Bernie. When Marco Rubio takes the stage with Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, the Democrats are going to be absolutely petrified. When Marco Rubio says he wants to be President of all Americans that gives him a chance to peel off people who supported Barack Obama four years ago. Like it or not, for a Republican to win the White House he must gain the support of at least a few people who voted for Obama.
This isn’t to say that Cruz didn’t try to get people to know him better. He spoke eloquently about his opposition to legitimizing a Cuba that is still run by the Castros by speaking of family’s experiences including his father who once fought for Castro. But when Anderson Cooper mentioned that Cruz does impersonations, he begged off. Now we’ll never know if he can conjure up Jimmy Stewart from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. By contrast, Rubio spoke of his love for ’90’s West Coast hip-hop with ease (although he did deny ever going to a rave). These personal idiosyncracies don’t matter with regard to public policy, but they do form a person’s character and ability to communicate and interact with people. Marco Rubio simply does a better job of communicating and interacting with people than Ted Cruz. As bright as Cruz is and as conservative as Cruz is, he had a tough act to follow.
Part II of the CNN Town Hall airs tomorrow night at 8 p.m. EST featuring Jeb Bush, John Kasich and Donald Trump.